UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev heading to Bellator after UFC title defense to corner teammate Usman Nurmagomedov

Islam Makhachev believes teammate Usman Nurmagomedov is a better striker than upcoming opponent Dustin Poirier.

Islam Makhachev is scheduled to defend his lightweight title against Poirier in the main event at UFC 302 on June 1 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Since he’s in the same weight class, Bellator MMA lightweight champ Nurmagomedov is one of Makhachev’s chief sparring partners in camp.

While Nurmagomedov couldn’t join the rest of the team until recently, Islam Makhachev revealed that the undefeated Bellator champ gave him some solid rounds as soon as they sparred. The reigning lightweight champion heaped praise on his teammate, also labeling him a better striker than Poirier.

“Usman, honestly always give me good rounds,” Makhachev said on the “Weighing In” podcast. “After he was sick and he just come back two days ago. We [rest of the team] are one week here. When he feel like better, right away he come to support me. And today he give me two good rounds. This guy I think have better striking than Dustin. He gave me good time in the striking because you know, his kick, his arm, he’s really good in the striking honestly. And when you spar with some guy at the high level, they call it [iron sharpens iron].”

While Dagestani exports are renowned for their dominant grappling, many have showcased elite striking skill sets over the years, including both Makhachev and Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov has scored eight of his 17 career wins via KO/TKO, albeit many of them via ground-and-pound. Nurmagomedov recently pulled out of a title defense against Alexander Shabliy scheduled for Bellator Paris on May 17 due to an undisclosed injury. The fight was supposed to be his return from a six-month suspension due to a failed drug test that resulted in his last title defense against Brent Primus being overturned to a no contest.

Islam Makhachev has also shown exceptional striking in dropping Charles Oliveira before submitting him to win the title and knocking out Alexander Volkanovski with a head kick in his second title defense.

Meanwhile, Poirier is known to be one of the most lethal strikers in the UFC lightweight division with 15 of his 30 career wins coming via KO/TKO. “The Diamond” has outclassed famed strikers like Justin Gaethje, Dan Hooker, Anthony Pettis, Max Holloway and Conor McGregor.

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